Travel Tips

What is a Vaccine Passport and Do I Need One for 2021?

December 12, 2020

The path back to enthusiastic international travel plans and open borders might just be a vaccine passport – a way for countries to lift restrictive quarantine protocols and complete bans. It’s still early to predict the overall roadmap, but here are a few common questions and answers to share what we already know and how it might impact your international travel in 2021.

What exactly is a vaccine passport?
The pioneer in the vaccine passport game is an app called “Common Pass,” which is already being endorsed by heavy hitters like the World Economic Forum, and being tested by United and Cathay Pacific flights between New York, London, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Common Pass functions as a scannable QR code that holds traveler data such as test data and vaccination documentation, and touts itself as the solution for the privacy-concerned. Common Pass keeps your health data safe and secure, so your privacy is protected. The app is not yet publicly available for download while it’s in the trial phase.

In addition, IATA (International Air Transport Association) will have its own app, the IATA Travel Pass, available in early 2021. In addition to the vaccination and testing data, the IATA app will also provide travelers with a resource center of health requirements and testing/vaccination centers. IATA is a trade organization made up of 290 airlines, so their’s may wind up being the most adopted passport.

Will vaccine passports be required for international travel?
It’s a little bit early to say, but all signs point to this being a requirement, at least in countries that have managed the COVID-19 pandemic well. These countries have been understandably reluctant to open themselves up to more risk, especially as some have been particularly effective at mitigating, and in some cases completely arresting the spread. Australia’s Prime Minister has already announced that a vaccine will be a requirement for visiting, and you can expect other countries to adopt this policy as well.

What does this mean for my safety?
It isn’t a foregone conclusion that if you have proof of vaccination that you cannot still spread the virus. Scientists are still not sure how long a vaccine will last, or if those vaccinated can still spread COVID. Long story short: there are still questions that will need to be answered.

When will vaccine passports become available?
It’s hard to say. We’re getting into another gray area, as so much of the medical and technological advancements are happening quickly. Optimistic projections show spring 2021 as when you might hear more coordinated messages on international air travel. More realistic forecasting says summer is more likely, since this is when experts predict most Americans will have access to a vaccination.

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